The BMW film series, The Hire was a series of eight short films (averaging about ten minutes each) produced for the Internet in 2001 and 2002. A form of branded content, all eight films featured popular filmmakers from across the globe, starred Clive Owen as the "Driver", and highlighted the performance aspects of various BMW automobiles.
The plots of each of the films differ, but one constant remains: Clive Owen plays "The Driver", a man who goes from place to place (in presumably rented BMW automobiles), getting hired by various people to be a sort of transport for their vital needs.
On April 26, 2002, John Frankenheimer's Ambush premiered on the BMW Films website and, two weeks later, was followed by Ang Lee's Chosen. Soon after, director Wong Kar-Wai was tapped to make a third film entitled The Follow, a dramatic piece about a runaway wife being followed by "The Driver". The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and received rave reviews. It was followed by Guy Ritchie's "Star" and Alejandro González Iñárritu's Powder Keg.
After the series began, BMW saw their 2001 sales numbers go up 12% from the previous year. The movies were viewed over 11 million times in four months. Two million people registered with the website and a large majority of users, registered to the site, sent film links to their friends and family.
The films proved to be so popular that BMW ended up producing a free DVD for customers who visited certain BMW dealerships. However, BMW hit a small snag. In September, BMW and Vanity Fair magazine decided to release a more public version of The Hire. Unfortunately, the Vanity Fair disc did not include Wong Kar-Wai's The Follow. This DVD was also distributed at select dealerships as the first version could no longer be legally distributed. Forest Whitaker had an uncredited part in the movie and had only agreed to be in the film if it were shown exclusively on the Internet. When the movie was released to DVD, Whitaker allegedly exercised an option in his contract which stipulated that the movie would not be released in any other format without authorization from the actor himself. The second disc, in lieu of carrying The Follow contained a link to the website with instructions to the viewer to watch the movie online.
Nonetheless, the DVD was highly sought on Internet forums as the September issue of Vanity Fair quickly vanished from shelves and became a rare find. BMW also pulled off a major coup when the movies were reviewed by Time Magazine and The New York Times who praised BMW for creating entertaining content for "discerning movie watchers".
Season 2 opened in big, loud fashion by debuting a dark action/comedy piece by Tony Scott called Beat the Devil. The movie, shot in Scott's trademark pseudo-psychedelic style, featured James Brown enlisting The Driver to take him to Las Vegas to re-work a decades-old deal he made with the devil which evidently gave Brown his "fame and fortune".
Some differences were evident. Whereas the first season was serious and subdued with tiny bursts of action and comedy, the second season was all flash and fun. To fit this motif, John Woo and Joe Carnahan were hired to direct Hostage and Ticker, respectively. The other main difference was that, instead of showcasing several different BMW cars (like the first season had done), the only car showcased was the then-new BMW Z4 Roadster.
To celebrate the premiere of the second season, BMW threw a party at the ArcLight Hollywood on October 17, 2002, just a week before the movie's internet debut. The party, co-hosted by Vanity Fair, also served as a charity and benefit for the homeless.
A month after the premiere of Beat the Devil, DirecTV began airing the entire series, in half-hour loops for five full weeks, on one of the blank satellite channels the system offered. The films were a success and, as a result, DirecTV considered using blank channels to air other companies' ads as well.
In 2003, BMW decided to make a third (and final) DVD compilation of The Hire. The new DVD made its debut at The Palais des Festival during the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and contained all eight movies, including Wong Kar-Wai's previously absent The Follow. Once again, the disc became available at select dealerships but fans could also obtain the disc for a nominal shipping fee via the BMW Films website.
During the last quarter of 2004, Dark Horse Comics and BMW planned to publish a 6-issue comic book limited series based on the main character of the films. The books were written by Kurt Busiek, Bruce Campbell, Katsuhiro Otomo, and Mark Waid as well as other comic book talent. Only four books were produced. "Tycoon" was the last book released (in December 2005). While the comics are still able to be purchased in collector shops and some comic book stores, they are no longer able to be purchased on the BMW website.
On October 21, 2005, BMW stopped distribution of The Hire on DVD and removed all eight films from the BMWFilms website just four years after the first film debuted. The series was abandoned, reportedly because the project had become too expensive to afford. BMW's Vice President of Marketing James McDowell, originator of the BMWFilms project, left BMW to become the VP of sales and marketing for BMW's "Mini USA" division. BMW also split from longtime ad partner Fallon Worldwide which was the creative production outlet for the series and BMW's German division had attempted to become involved with the US division of the company, cutting costs..
The end results were staggering: the series had been viewed over 100 million times in four years and had changed the way products were advertised.
Copies of the DVD are still commonly found in Internet shops and auction sites. The movies themselves continue to appear on many torrent searches and viral video sites around the Internet.
In early 2006, BMW released a line of free "BMW Audiobooks" to take advantage of the iPod/mp3-player revolution (and the fact that most BMW's came with the "iPod connector" pre-installed in their vehicles). While the stories had the same pulp-action feel as The Hire, the character of "The Driver" was noticeably absent. The audiobooks were free (like the films that preceded them) but are no longer available for download from the BMW website.
On February 17, 2007, MINI (BMW) launched a new short film series called, Hammer and Coop. The series is a comedic parody of 1970s action-television shows like Starsky & Hutch and Charlie's Angels, and showcases BMW's "Mini-Cooper" line of cars as the featured product.
The Driver escorts an elderly man to an undisclosed location, where he is confronted by a van full of armed men and is warned that the old man has stolen a large amount of diamonds. The old man claims to have swallowed the diamonds and that the men will likely cut him open to retrieve the diamonds. The Driver decides at the last minute to help him, participating in a car chase and shootout with the van. The Driver eventually evades his pursuers and watches their destruction. He then delivers the old man to a town nearby and asks the merchant if he did indeed swallowed the diamonds. The client merely chuckles and walks away. The Driver smiles and leaves.
The Driver protects a holy Asian child that was brought to America by boat. The child gives the Driver a gift but says that he is not supposed to open it yet. After being pursued by many armed assassins, and being grazed in the ear, he delivers the boy to another holy man. The Boy however signals silently to the Driver that the man is not actually a monk, indicated by his footwear. The Driver defeats the impostor holy man and rescues the boy. As he leaves the Driver opens the gift which is revealed to be a Hulk bandage for his bleeding ear.
The Driver is hired by a nervous movie manager to spy on a paranoid actor's wife. During his tailing of the wife, the Driver describes the right way to tail someone. As he follows her he begins to fear what he might learn of her apparently tragic life, which ends with him giving the manager's money back. The wife was evidently trying to leave the country to find her mother but was beaten at one point, most likely by her husband.
- with Forest Whitaker, Mickey Rourke, and Adriana Lima
- Directed by Wong Kar-wai
- Featured the BMW 3 Series and the Z3 roadster
The Driver is chosen by a spoiled and shallow celebrity to drive her to a venue. Unbeknownst to her, her manager has actually hired the Driver to teach the celebrity a lesson. Pretending to escape her pursuing bodyguards, the Driver recklessly drives through the city, tossing the hapless celebrity all around the backseat. They arrive at the venue, where she is thrown out of the car and photographed by paparazzi in an embarrassing end on the red carpet. Available on hdshare.tv
The Driver is drafted by the UN to rescue a wounded war photographer named Harvey Jacobs from out of hostile territory. While they are leaving Jacobs tells the Driver about the horrors he saw as a photographer, but he regrets his inability to help war victims. He gives the Driver the film needed for a New York Times story and also his dog tags to give to his mother. When they reach the border, they are confronted by a guard who begins to draw arms as Jacobs begins taking pictures, trying to get himself killed. The Driver drives through a hail of gunfire to the border, but finds Jacobs killed by a bullet through the seat. The Driver arrives in America to give the dog tags to Jacobs' blind mother.
The Driver is hired by the FBI to help defuse a hostage situation. A disgruntled employee has kidnapped a CEO and has hidden her, demanding $5,088,042. The Driver delivers the money, writing the sum on his hand as instructed by the hostage taker. After he is told that he holds the life of a person in his hand, he is ordered to burn the money. As he complies, the federal agents break in and attempt to subdue the man, who shoots himself in the head before he reveals where the woman is hidden. The Driver then tries to find the hostage before she drowns in the trunk of a sinking car. As a twist, the kidnapped woman is revealed to be the hostage taker's lover. She coldly taunts the dying man in the hospital.
The Driver drives a wounded diplomat, who carries a mysterious briefcase, while under helicopter attack. The Driver manages to destroy his pursuers, but refuses to proceed without knowing the contents of the damaged briefcase. It is revealed that the diplomat guards a human heart for a peacekeeper, whose life is needed for the continued freedom of the people. The case is delivered, and the tyrant is forced to give up his attempt to take the country by force. The Driver leaves for another mission.
- with Don Cheadle
- cameos by Ray Liotta, F. Murray Abraham, Robert Patrick, Clifton Powell and Dennis Haysbert as US agents.
- Directed by Joe Carnahan
- Featured the BMW Z4
Beat The Devil
The Driver drag-races the Devil, in order to earn James Brown his soul.
- with James Brown, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and Marilyn Manson
- Directed by Tony Scott
- Featured the BMW Z4
"The Subplot Films"
Four smaller movies, dubbed "The Subplot Movies" were shot and directed by Ben Younger. Lacking any real style (and appearing to be shot with a standard consumer-level DV-cam), they were designed to "fill in the gaps" between the five films and featured a man who appeared to be tracking "The Driver", finding "clues" usually scribbled, in pen, on small pieces of paper. The movies, at first glance, have no real connection to the "Driver" movies at all and made no real sense. Little did viewers realize that the "clues" in the movie were part of a hidden game that would lead intuitive fans to a party in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Contest/Game & Party
Shortly after the release of the "Subplot Films", reports circulated around the Internet that Apple, Starbucks, BMW Films First Illinois Mortgage, and Susstones' all had a small, hidden link on their website that had a direct connection with the movies. Upon further investigation, three phone numbers and a web address were found in the four films, which led many viewers to call those numbers and go to that website.
Thousands took to the web, taking place in the hunt but only 250 actually solved the puzzle, which allowed the lucky few to be entered in a drawing to win a 2003 BMW Z4, seen in Hostage.
The final piece of the puzzle was a voicemail, instructing participants to meet with a correspondent in Las Vegas, the site of a VIP Party for BMW where the Grand Prize Z4 was given away to a couple from Bellingham, Washington. The First Prize was a BMW Q3.s mountain bike, awarded to a student from the University of New Hampshire.
Several companies attempted to capitalize on the success of BMW's film series. In 2002, the Nissan car company produced their own short film featuring their newly reintroduced 350Z. Entitled The Run, the movie was directed by John Bruno, a James Cameron prodigy who worked with Cameron on True Lies, The Abyss and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film was shown in theaters before feature films in November 2002. Nissan offered a DVD of the film for $9.95. A few years later, Bombardier Recreational Products company introduced a series of short movies on the Internet which showcased their "Sea-Doo" line of personal water craft (PWC) while Covad Business also constructed a campy internet horror film based on their products called The Ringing with the intent of showcasing VoIP technology.
In 2004, BMW Canada released a short film that was little related to The Hire series. The short was called Mr. Jones: Drive, which starred Julian Richings as the title character and Sandrine Holt as a grieving woman who jumps into Mr. Jones' BMW as he was following behind a funeral procession. Unlike the shorts in The Hire series, Mr. Jones: Drive was more of a dramatic short work than action-centered piece. The short itself was displayed on BMW Canada's website until early 2006.
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- Nissan Shifts Into Entertainment With Its First Short Film, ``The Run''; Award-Winning Nissan 350Z Stars in Adrenaline-Filled Film by Two-Time Academy Award-Winner John Bruno | Business Wire | Find Articles at BNET.com
- BRP Uses Elaborate Multi-Media Campaign To Promote Sea-Doo Brands to the Masses
- Covad Business VoIP
- BMW Films The Hire Series
- Dark Horse The Hire Section
- BMW Audio Books
- Ambush at the Internet Movie Database
- Chosen at the Internet Movie Database
- The Follow at the Internet Movie Database
- Star at the Internet Movie Database
- Powder Keg at the Internet Movie Database
- Hostage at the Internet Movie Database
- Ticker at the Internet Movie Database
- Beat the Devil at the Internet Movie Database